New York's storied St. Patrick's Day Parade will end its long-standing ban on gay groups, GLAAD announced Wednesday morning.
According to the Irish Voice, which first reported the news, the longtime broadcaster of the parade, NBC, was prepared to drop its coverage unless the event began including LGBT organizations.
The organization Out@NBCUniversal, an LGBT group for employees of the media company, will be the first LGBT organization to march openly with its own banner in the March 2015 parade. The parade's organizers, affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, have barred LGBT groups from openly participating in the event with signage for more than 20 years. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, however, Out@NBCUniversal will be the only LGBT group allowed in the march.
Last year Boston's parade became a subject of controversy as an LGBT contingent was shut out from the parade. In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio did not march in the parade due to the practice of refusing LGBT groups, and both Heineken and Guinness dropped their sponsorship of the event.
New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman said the decision this week sends a "powerful message" of "equal justice and opportunity for all New Yorkers."
"I also want to applaud OUT@NBCUniversal for standing up for the rights of all New Yorkers," he said Wednesday. "I look forward to next year’s parade, which will serve as the latest example of New York leading the way in equality.”
Still, Empire State Pride Agenda executive director Nathan M. Schaefer said much must be done to solidify the parade's standing with LGBT people.
“The news that the organizers of the St. Patrick's Day Parade will allow one LGBT group — OUT at NBC Universal — to march under its own banner for the first time strikes us as disappointing and self-serving,” he said in a statement Wednesday. “While this development is long overdue, inviting one group to march at the exclusion of all others and continuing to refer to our vibrant community as 'gay' when it is in fact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, is a far stretch from the full inclusion we deserve.”
More groups will be allowed in succeeding years, according to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.
“We are pleased that the changes proposed by the parade committee will finally make it possible for LGBT Americans — including Irish Catholic LGBT Americans — to officially march under their own banners,” said Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Foundation’s Religion and Faith Program. “The discriminatory ban has been shameful, particularly in the very city where the LGBT rights movement got its start 45 years ago at the Stonewall Inn.”
Also Wednesday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, was named the grand marshal of next year's parade. Dolan has made several statements opposing LGBT rights.
Update: Additionally, a statement from Irish Queers sent to The Advocate on Wednesday, distinguished that this decision still shuts out Irish LGBT groups that have fought to be part of the parade for decades.
"We welcome this small victory, but our call remains the same — the parade must be open to Irish LGBT groups, not "in subsequent years" but now. (We remember too well how parade organizers used fake waiting lists to bury our applications before)," the statement read.